Annulment Vs. Divorce (What Is The Difference?)

When considering your options before filing, it’s essential to know the difference between annulment and divorce. A divorce serves to legally separate two people.

This includes their legal assets as well as any children resulting from the marriage (child custody).

An annulment of marriage does most of what divorce does. However, it also voids the marriage legally, making it appear as if the marriage never took place. While it might sound great to start with a new slate, receiving an annulment requires a particular set of circumstances.

Without knowing the grounds for annulment and divorce, it is impossible to know which is best for your situation. That’s why we’re here to inform you of the difference between the two, so you’ll choose the best option for your situation. And regardless of which you choose, you’ll need an experienced divorce attorney on your side.

Contract of divorce (dissolution or cancellation) of marriage, husband during divorce process and signing of divorce contract.

Annulment

An annulment cancels a marriage. After an annulment, the marriage is entirely null and void, and it is as if it never existed. However, there are different types of annulment, and the process differs depending on the kind of annulment you seek.

Types of Annulment

There are two types of annulment: legal annulment and religious annulment. This article mainly covers legal annulments, which are very different from religious annulments.

Religious Annulment

Several different religions offer religious annulments, however, they are most common in the Catholic church. The church will grant an annulment for various reasons, allowing the former spouses to marry other people. Without an annulment, they would be religiously banned from doing so.

Receiving an annulment from a church has no legal impact on a person’s legal marital status. It is strictly a construct of the church. Many churches require you to first go through the legal process of obtaining a divorce or annulment before they issue a declaration of nullity within the church.

Grounds for annulment within the church are generally different from the legal grounds for annulment. To learn more about religious annulments, contact your religious institution.

Civil or Legal Annulment

A legal annulment is only obtainable through a legal process, which starts by filing documents with the appropriate court.

A civil annulment is different from a traditional divorce, but it does dissolve a marriage. The difference is that the dissolution is retroactive, meaning that the marriage was void at the time it was established. Once an annulment proves the marriage was invalid, it is like the marriage never took place.

In Arizona, it is only possible to receive an annulment if the petitioner can prove to a judge that there are appropriate grounds.

woman returned wedding ring to husband . Divorce concept

Grounds for Civil Annulment

In some instances, it might be necessary to obtain an annulment, especially when someone is the victim of abuse, fraud, or trickery. Having a marriage declared null and void can protect the victimized party’s assets or inheritances.

However, the annulment process is not straightforward. When considering whether an annulment is the correct option, it is essential to know if there are grounds for annulment and to work with a knowledgeable divorce attorney who is familiar with annulment legal procedures.

Lack of Consent or Duress

A judge might declare a marriage null and void if a petitioner can prove that they were influenced, coerced, or otherwise forced into a marriage against their will.

Proving these grounds is not an easy task, so it is essential to have valid evidence before filing for an annulment on these grounds.

Marriage Between Blood Relatives

In most cases, it is illegal to marry a blood relative. If two people marry and later find out they share a blood relation, an Arizona judge typically grants them an annulment.

Of course, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney as there is an exception and marriages that were entered into in another state may pose their own specific issues.

Fraudulent Marriage

In cases involving a fraudulent marriage, it can be imperative to receive an annulment to protect your assets.

Fraudulent marriages take place in situations where there is a stand-in bride or groom, when marriage documents were faked, or other evidence of fraud. If you can prove to a judge that the marriage was entered into by fraud, it is a voidable marriage.

Temporary Insanity

If someone is insane or experiencing mental health issues that make them temporarily unable to make sound decisions, they cannot consent to marriage. If this is the case, a judge will require the petitioner to provide medical documentation or other evidence proving temporary insanity before ruling on the annulment.

Mental Incapacity

When someone is in a coma, or under anesthesia, or otherwise lack mental capacity to give consent, they are unable to enter into a marriage. If somehow a person finds themself married after they were incapacitated, it is not a legal marriage and may qualify for an annulment.

Woman going through divorce holding wedding ring and crying

Intoxication

Laws allow people who enter into a marriage under the influence to obtain an annulment. However, intoxication is not easy to prove without witnesses and additional supporting evidence to prove not only the intoxication but the extent of the intoxication.

Inability to Consummate the Marriage

Believe it or not, a failure to consummate the marriage is one of the reasons a judge might grant an annulment. However, the party who begins the annulment process has to prove they did not know the other party was unable to consummate the marriage prior to the legal union.

For example, if a married couple has children and tries to use this as grounds for annulment, the judge will likely throw out the annulment.

Furthermore, if there is evidence that the petitioner knew their spouse was unable to copulate at the time of the marriage, the judge will likely require them to file for a divorce instead of annulment.

But, additional facts may change the above examples. If you are seeking an annulment on these grounds, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.

Bigamy

When someone marries more than one person at the same time, they are committing bigamy. Bigamy is illegal in Arizona and most states in America. In fact, it is a serious crime punishable by jail time and fines. A bigamous marriage is deemed as invalid, making it legitimate grounds for the annulment of marriage.

Lack of Parental Consent for Marriage of a Minor

The age of marital consent in Arizona is 18. This means that if Arizona residents are 18 or older, they can marry without parental consent. Residents under the legal age of 18 and over the age of 16, can only marry if they have the consent of their parents/guardian or are emancipated.

beautiful blonde bride preparing for her wedding

Under both exceptions, the prospective spouse cannot be more than three years older than the person wishing to marry. People under 16 years of age are not permitted to marry in Arizona.

Without parental consent or meeting the emancipation requirements, the marriage is regarded as an underage marriage, making it invalid and eligible for annulment.

Underage Marriage

There are laws in place that prohibit children from marrying, even with parental consent. In Arizona, it is illegal for anyone under 16 to marry.

Reasons to File for Annulment

If you meet the grounds for filing an annulment, it might be the correct option for you. You may want to legally nullify your marriage if you believe the marriage was invalid from the start.

Petitioning for Annulment

In order to petition for an annulment, you need to have grounds as well as understand precisely what you are facing.

After having your marriage ruled null and void, you are no longer able to collect spousal benefits, and you lose your right to petition for spousal support.

If there are children involved in the case, an annulment will serve as a starting point for child custody, child support, parenting plans, and other matters relating to the children. Arizona does not recognize common-law marriages.

Unless you are legally married, it is not necessary to file for an annulment or divorce despite the length of time you’ve cohabitated with your partner.

However, if a common-law marriage is entered into by two parties while they live in another state, the marriage might be valid in Arizona. This is an important potential exception that if you are in this situation, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.

It is important to note that even if you obtain an annulment of marriage, you still need to review and update estate planning documents and beneficiaries, as an annulment may or may not change these documents.

With so many variables, it is essential to consult a family law attorney when filing divorce or annulment documents.

Divorce

Divorce is the most common method for a married couple to part ways when they are in a legally valid marriage. While the restrictions for receiving an annulment are stringent, Arizona is a no-fault divorce state.

So, under a common non-covenant marriage, neither party has to prove grounds for divorce; they simply have to meet the jurisdictional requirements, attest that the marriage is irretrievably broken, file documents with the appropriate court, and go through the legal process.

Types of Divorce

Unlike annulments, there are not different types of divorce. However, there are various ways to handle the proceedings.

Two terms commonly used to describe the handling of divorce are uncontested and contested.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce means that both parties agree to the terms. So, the court is not responsible for deciding how to divide marital assets.

While it might be challenging to get both parties to agree to the terms of a divorce, starting with the mindset that you want an uncontested divorce can be an excellent approach to part ways amicably.

In the end, if you are unable to reach agreements, the court will resolve the disputes. But, in most situations, it is best to try to reach agreements and leave court as a last resort.

Contested Divorce

When a married couple does not agree on the terms of a divorce, the separation is contested. If the parties are unable to agree, the judge will need to decide on property division, alimony (spousal maintenance), and more.
In a contested divorce, it is essential to have an experienced lawyer to provide legal advice.

Pile of dollars with word alimony on a stick.

An attorney can help you protect your assets, maintain parental rights, and make the entire legal procedure less stressful.

Reasons to File for Divorce

When it comes to getting a divorce, there does not have to be a specific reason.

Sometimes people just grow apart causing irreconcilable differences. Other times there can be challenging circumstances like abuse, addiction, and infidelity. While these are good reasons for divorce, they are likely not valid grounds for annulment.

Filing for Divorce

Only people who are in a legally valid marriage can get a divorce. However, in most cases, it is necessary to go through the divorce process if you want to separate lawfully. If a petitioner files for an annulment and the court finds that they cannot meet the requirements, the court will require them to file a divorce instead or convert the Court may convert the annulment to a divorce, prolonging the separation process.

In Arizona, there are requirements to file for divorce as well. You need to file in the county you reside in, and there are sometimes restrictions based on how long you’ve lived in the state.

While you do not have to prove grounds for a divorce, there are many variables to consider. Some divorces are simple, while others can drag on for long periods, causing a lot of stress and excess emotional strain.

Annulment vs. Divorce

Annulment and divorce are both ways to dissolve a marriage. However, the correct option for you depends on your specific situation. In Arizona, an annulment of marriage is only suitable for unions that were not legal at the time of marriage. If you entered into a valid legal marriage, it is not a voidable marriage, and you must file for divorce or legal separation.

While filing for divorce may seem like a more straightforward option, an annulment can be the most appropriate way to protect yourself if you can meet the requirements.

Filing correctly from the start makes a stressful process a little easier. And be sure to seek reputable legal advice from a family law attorney before filing. The last thing you’ll want is to have to restart the legal process, or lose a potential claim, because you filed the wrong way. A family law firm can help you, so you can separate from your spouse and move on with your life.

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